Throwback Thursday: Babylon 5

Throwback Thursday: Babylon 5
Inspirations Jul 20, 2017 at 12:18 PM

Babylon 5 was a science fiction television show that aired from 1994 to 1998 and had some groundbreaking space and starship effects, fully generated with computers, and winning the pilot an Emmy for Best Special Effects in a Television Movie in 1994. They used LightWave 3D and After Effects, among other tools. Here’s a look back at some of the effects and software used in the show.

Way before CGI was mainstream, Amiga helped it begin

State of the art technology for the time. The vfx were for the show were designed on an accelerated Amiga 2000, complete with a Video Toaster board. They used LightWave 3D and Modeler 3D.

LightWave 3D and After Effects in Babylon 5

In an article from August 1997 on Midwinter.com, the software is discussed in length talking about using Macs for editing, Matte painting and compositing, and SGIs for Compositing and titling. Softimage and Lightwave are heavily in use and "plug-in hungry". Read the full article here.

NewTek talked to Ron Thornton, who worked on many of the effects with his team.

"For the first season of the series, the team was running the Video Toaster with LightWave on the Amiga. Then NewTek ported it to the PC, and another revolution occurred, as the PC began to nudge out the big blue and purple machines from SGI. Meanwhile, Video Toaster development began moving at a much faster rate on the PC, and by the third season of Babylon 5, the group was running the Video Toaster with LightWave solely on PCs, and what used to take two hours to process on the Amiga was now rendering in minutes." Read more

From an Interview with Ron Thornton from Babylon 5 - Online! Read the interview by Eric Reinholdt:

Eric: "How is building computer models different from building physical models?"
Thornton: "You still have to build the models, only you use polygons and pixels instead of plastic and paintbrushes."

The Making Of Babylon 5

The stars of the show talk about the special effects, prosthetics, and makeup used in the show. The show is narrated by Chekov from the original Star Trek. 

Posted by Michele Yamazaki